Terms – Focus

Focusing is an important part of clear sight. In fact focus can be one of the first overt statements in a photographer’s arsenal for effective communication.

Some shots may have a “softer focus” for a glamour affect, but these are specialty shots which we will discuss in another post for the sake of avoiding too many technicalities.

A viewer may be misled if the photographer’s intended subject if a picture is taken out of focus. At-least very confused about what the true subject is. Focus is important.

What is focus and how is it achieved?

20130330-234916.jpgIf you will notice the pansy looks nice enough until you get closer in to see that the pansy stamens are not as detailed as the lace on the table top. The focus placement should draw your eye to the lace over the molded pansy. However, this would not have been my chosen point of focus. Take my next illustration for an example.

The next image of the molded pansy clearly portrays the detail I want to communicate. Looking closely at the pansy it is satisfying to see it in enough detail so to not feel like

20130330-234927.jpg

you should blink to make it clearer. This is the difference between being “in focus” or being “out of focus”.

Achieving a proper focus can be achieved by taking notice where your camera thinks you want it to focus. Digital SLR cameras will flash one or more zones that it detects should be in focus as you look at the scene through the view finder. Consumer model or “point and shoot” cameras will flash boxes around these zones and finally smart phone cameras usually respond to tap point focusing.

I have found that some “point and shoot” cameras will focus better when closer to your subject. To ensure a certain part of your subject is in focus (such as the eye) you might also have to square them in the frame, focus (press the shutter release button half-way down), adjust your frame to your desired place and release the shutter.

Do not feel limited by your equipment, but use it to your advantage for excellence!

Reflection – Part 4

Reflections are not always  a display of  the room and what is in it. Sometimes reflections are not as much reflection as projection. A projection is a whole new world to explore and will give you a riddle for a challenge.

Remember the glass trophy I wrote of in “Reflection – Part 3” as a story on myself? That trophy was actually giving a projection not reflecting. While it really happened to me, it is a great illustration of what I am writing about.

Blocking reflections should follow the same pattern as other forms of troubleshooting. Work from the basic to the most advanced issue.

Friends of mine who work in the IT field can tell me story after story of how they worked on a problem for hours only to find out something as simple as a power outage was caused by an unplugged power cable.

I find myself often embarrassed by asking for help only for the person coming to my aid, see my difficulty to be a basic one. This is not to say that you should never ask for help. The most productive people I know choose to ask multiple times a day for help! I have found the best time to ask is after covering the basics.

Projection is one of those difficulties that we discover is not reflection after we have eliminated all possible reflections. There was something in the glass trophy I thought was a reflection but it would not go away no matter where I put a fill card! That was when I began asking the question “What is this glass trophy showing me?” instead of “Where is this reflection coming from!”

My answer came after I stopped assuming it was a reflection. Unfortunately this glass trophy was a solid piece so I could not open it and stop the projection shown in the edges of the trophy, but I did learn more about what I should watch for next photo shoot.

Asking a question that matches the right answer is very helpful! Keep asking questions!

Lighting Is Not Everything

I keep bringing everything back to light from almost every post. So perhaps some illustration  and explanation are in order on how lighting is important but “is not everything.”

You may ask “I don’t understand! If lighting isn’t everything, what is lighting?” Without light shots are practically impossible yes. Lighting is important, however just adding light is not the “cure-all” for poorly lit photography. The key to added lighting is its positioning. Light positioning came up in our 6 part article on “Back Lighting” and “Jewelry Photography” single, but how about “simple scenes”? What can be done to improve a shot with “house-hold lights”?

I want to caution anyone who may consider scenes “simple”. It may not  be difficult to see or understand, although a “simple shot” is exactly the photo with which you will come away. Simple shots often do not have depth, intrigue or definition, thus they appear “flat” and are not “interesting”. Lighting properly placed can change this in seconds.

Photographers who specialize in portraiture are aware of the technique “3/4 (‘three quarter’) lighting”; if not by name, I am certain they do in practice. A brief explanation of “3/4 lighting” and I will show you how I applied it in my illustration.

3/4 Lighting is strategically placing your light to the side of your subject and no more than 45 degrees below. From the starting position for lighting directly in-front of your subject’s face, pivoting the light around the side of your subject and then lowering the light in that plain to achieve your desired effect. Positioning a light in such a way will light about 3/4 of the face, thus “3/4 lighting.”

Lighting is not just a catalyst for capturing a photo, but also the important ingredient for making an image which has intrigue, contrast, clarity and definition.

Back Lighting – Part 4

Lighting is an art all of its own. I think I have mentioned this in several ways previous in this series, however I want to impress you with the value of lighting well placed. “Good lighting” is not always “good enough”. I do not mean to make this a diatribe, just a way to help us break out of our routine lighting techniques and learn something more which will add to our photography value.

There are some unique uses of lighting and techniques equally as creative. One of these techniques is included in the category of Back Lighting, but it takes an odd form. In this illustration to the right, this set-up uses only reflected light. The advantage of using only reflected light from this set-up is this: Reducing the harsh lighting on the surface of the glass, or surfaces like it, provides the illumination required to see the glass as well as giving a wonderful view of the drink in the glass.

I have a fantastic imagination with which I can rationalize answers to pictures or illustrations. However, I want to explain some things which I know I have imagined: I have little experience with flashes, but I have imagined my light source in this illustration as a flash. I have other lights positioned in my mind to add light to the shot, but every other light is a non-flash studio light. Next, since I basically drew this illustration, I was not sure how to illustrate the opaque density of the background Styrofoam board, so instead I will tell you, this technique is based partly on the fact that no light will come through the Styrofoam background and relying on the side lighting from the reflectors.

Just because my illustration has only one light source, does not mean this technique is not valid with more. Have fun with this technique, learning from it and increase its versatility.

Back Lighting – Part 3

Back Lighting within the confines of a room will fill with light faster than outdoors. In contrast this same room will take more time to fill than a soft box. This is a rather obvious statement I know, however I must often remind myself of this fact within the context that light moves at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. I still have a hard time truly comprehending that number.

Perhaps this will help to comprehend the speed of light from our flashes to think of light in miles traveled in 1 second contrasted to the circumference of the earth. Light traveling at 186,000 miles per second around the earths 25,000 miles (rounded to the nearest thousand for simplicity) will lap the earth 7 times and then some in 1 second! Is that fast enough for you?

The theory of Back Lighting has more to do with the saturation of light into the camera lens than light’s speed, so I will not distract us with more facts. I do want to impress you with the speed of light in that light is reflected, refracted and split again throughout the staging room while your shutter is open. So position your flashes and other light tools wisely so as to capture the most light as possible with you camera.

In your style of Back Lighting, do you want to see the light source? Place so as to draw the viewers focus to you subject. The picture above unintentionally captured the light and movement of a passing vehicle, so it is not as I would have set-up the shot, but is a good demonstration of being spontaneous in life’s unique moments. The picture below illustrates my point of using the light source to draw a viewers focus toward the subject. The light from the moon is vignetted in a spreading ray toward my subject while at the same time Back Lighting him in dramatic effect.

The first photo in this post also uses some techniques of Back Lighting without silhouetting my subject. Silhouetting is most often used to emphasize the edges or shape of the subject (whether it is person or object). This is done in both pictures: Picture 1, by illuminating the side of the subject and letting the shadow on the other side disappear into the surrounding background. Picture 2, is contrasting the head and shoulders of the subject against the semi-illuminated sky in the reflected light of the moon.

Enjoy these techniques. Get out and play with long shutter releases and beautiful skies!

Foetoss Means – Part 2

We were last discussing noun cases from the ancient Greek words “Foetoss” and how that plays into the difference between “Foeotss” and its root word “Foce”.

Allow me to illustrate the difference between the words and how the case changes its use. Pretend that we are making a sand castle on the beach. With all of the shovels and buckets at our disposal to form the castle, our first step will be to level the area where we will build the castle. This is setting the groundwork for a great castle and with a defined area on which we can build; this is our first step which I will name “Foce”. This is the purpose of this root word. It defines a general use or “area” in which the subject must remain to directly pertain for sound and logical communication. Next we fill our buckets with sand and begin building the walls of the castle, which I will name “Foetoss”. So our foundation is “Foce – Light” and our walls are “Foetoss – Of Light.”

The buckets really have nothing to do with the sand castle, but forming the sand. We could do the same with our hands if we had a mind to do so. My point is that the buckets being useful are not necessary to the sand castle. What is necessary is sand of which the foundation consists and the walls also. Therefore it would make sense to say “foundation” equals “sand” and “walls” equal “of sand” just as our Greek words “Foce” equal “light” and “Foetoss” equals “Of light”. They are the same substance, but it is from sand which the walls unformed were taken and now formed as sand castle walls.

So with this illustration, “Foce” and “Foetoss” both belong to the subject of “light”, but “Foetoss” is built on “Foce” just as the walls of the sand castle are built on the sand foundation.

So, this is what “Foetoss” means, “Of light”. Why did I choose the word “Foetoss (Of light)” for a studio name? You will have to come back and read part 3 to know!

Camera Troubles – Part 5

There is one more part of the human Eye and camera that we have not covered. This is the process of the Data Transfer from the Sensor to the Storage media via the Processor.

The Data Transfer:

The human capability for vision is amazing because we think we understand it enough to duplicate the process, only to realize our duplication is much less efficient than our inspiration.

As soon as our Retina receives the light of our surroundings, beginning to send the neurological impulses to the Optic Nerve there is a process of Data Transfer initiated. The amazing thing about this Data Transfer is the amount of detail that can be recalled, or amounts of certain information which one can be trained to receive and recall.

Illustration of information recall: Military branches train their personnel to acquire a target and discern in an instant if it is friendly or hostile. After an operation, begin the reports from each member and with it the lists of information that is most important; number of personnel on the operation, enemy patrols encountered, branches to which the patrols are affiliated, shots fired, number of injuries…etc. There is a lot of information to take in with precious little time to do so. This information is primarily accumulated by sight and secondarily with the other 4 human senses.

The same for public servants. Police officers require the use of sight in making reports besides assessing the threat to the public and their own safety. Paramedics make reports with vital statistics of a patient from many different senses at the same time. Firemen and women are trained to take verbal queues before getting to the scene of an emergency to take their own assessment of the situation.

This is all gathering data. These mentioned public servants and military are trained not just to gather information but to recall it for the purpose of reporting the events as they happened. This Data is what I draw upon in likening it to the Data a camera receives.

When the sequence in a camera is initiated, the light received by the Sensor is converted into Data which is transferred  across thin metal conductors. However, here is where Data loss becomes a problem. The Sensor is made up of millions of little pixels which receive light. There is not adequate space to give each pixel its own dedicated metal conductor for Data Transfer, so there ends up being about 100,000 or more pixels attached to 1 metal conductor lead.

Even still it is incredible that with so much Data being Transferred there is not more Data loss in digital cameras.

In the next and last post for the “Camera Troubles” series, we will discuss the specifics of the digital camera limitations so that we can learn to capture the detail we want.

Location, Location, Location! Part 2

Do you ever get surprised by something unintended in a photo but brings it up a step from good to superb? This post is something along those lines.

I have been working on textures for sometime, and while on a shoot I captured some textures that made the photo complete. I did not even notice what I had done until I was editing the photos!

This illustration is a half step behind by the fact that the added texture was unintentional, but for what it lacks, it fills in by demonstrating how texture can fit so well into a photo.

As I took the photo, I wanted to be sure to capture the free-standing display board and materials on the table. The tiled entry way and support column provide an unassuming background that brings an inviting warmth to the photo. The texture of the tile, is not over powering or out-of-place, but just enough that it almost makes the viewer feel secure and sure-footed.

I say that this was unintentional, when the whole truth is; I wanted this idea which we have discussed, communicated in the photo but did not fully see the environment which was to be captured.

My focus is texture. Using this post and its previous counter-part as an example you can use the very same principles to bring other elements into your photos! Have fun with it and the learning process. Remember: mistakes are a sign of improvement! Learning to walk means a possibility of falling, but getting up again to carry on is the vital attitude for success!

“All aboard!” Part 1

There are so many things that can be used  as a fresh “vein” in cultivating creativity, but I do not want to ware you out with all of the possibilities. There are literally a million and more options waiting for you!  So this will be the final post in the series of “Cultivating Creativity”.

Could it be possible that we give ourselves too many options in a photo shoot and therefore hinder our ability because we are not focused on the best two or three shots with any variation requested?

Shooting by location can be one of these “open ended” opportunities. On the other hand, there could be some “creative” ways of narrowing the probabilities to make the possible become reality.

Take a train station for an illustration: A train station contains so many possibilities that to use it as a portrait location would require some organization in order to come away with a profitable portrait set. In the same way it can be too much for one imagination to work in for stock photography.

Let me first define some terms: (Or at-least this is how I define these terms.)

  • Portraiture – photography which centers on a person and generally includes a recognizable portion of the face.
  • Stock – photography designed as art for any range of uses which may include the human figure for interest.

The basic issue comes down to this; portraiture is photography designed to sell because of emotional attachments, whereas stock sells because of the artistic value. I would sound rather cold if anyone were to hear me say it this way without this explanatory context. This by no means is a put down to portraiture! Portrait photography is one of the most recognized markets in the art world and a very good job done by all of my photography peers, professional and hobbyist alike!

Now let us consider some more ways to narrow our options of shots by location. Shooting some of the basics of composition, such as; leading lines, focal direction, rule of thirds and time lapse.

How about photographing components of an object, or vehicles that come and go from the location? Buildings on the grounds or doorways? You can even make it complicated if you wish; regarding physics, shoot the components of an object which create or absorb friction. …

 

Part 2 will come out this Friday. Stay tuned!